At least once a week, I find myself in what I like to call the “TikTok Twilight Zone.” Everything stops except the infinite void in which my thumb keeps flicking up on the screen of my phone. Sound clip after sound clip plays, people dance, I laugh at all of the people with a self-deprecating sense of humor. It matters very little what I’m supposed to be doing (usually sleeping). All that matters is TikTok.
Next thing I know, two hours have passed, I’ve grown a full beard, and I’m no longer sure what year it is. Think Robin Williams after escaping the Jumanji game… Except I’m a girl, and I certainly haven’t been living in a jungle for the last couple of decades.
My point is this: TikTok is addicting. It’s so addicting that I have to ground myself from it, refusing to click that sweet little music note app icon until I’ve earned the right to escape into the abyss once again.
A Brief Timeline of the TikTok Ban
So, that all being said, you can imagine how I, along with the other 80 million monthly active users in the United States alone, felt when former POTUS Donald Trump announced he would be banning the app in July 2020.
The following month, Trump signed an executive order stating that parent company ByteDance had to sell TikTok’s US services within 45 days, putting the deadline at September 15. A few days later, that deadline was extended to 90 days; else, the app would face severe restrictions for failure to comply.
Microsoft began making plans to purchase the app, an idea that Trump agreed with:
“I don’t mind whether it’s Microsoft or someone else, a big company, a secure company, a very American company buys it,” Bloomberg News quotes. “It’ll close down on September 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal, so the Treasury of the United States gets a lot of money.”
TikTok responded with a lawsuit against the former President, stating that the ban order circumvented due process. According to ByteDance, there was no evidence that the app was a threat to national security, as the alleged charge stated.
Meanwhile, ByteDance rejected Microsoft’s acquirement bid and approached Twitter to discuss a deal. On September 18, a new executive order was announced, ordering app stores to remove TikTok by September 20. That is until an agreement was struck between Oracle and Walmart by Monday morning assuring that they would take minority stakes in the global shares of the company, leaving ByteDance holding on to 80%.
Finally, on September 28, a federal judge ruled that TikTok would get its temporary injunction from the ban, which representatives of the app called “unconstitutional and a violation of due process.”
“Judge Carl Nichols’ opinion was issued under seal, so his exact reasoning for the order is not public. But during the emergency hearing, Nichols indicated that the Trump administration’s ban, as structured, could be considered a “fairly significant deprivation” of the company’s due process rights.”
The State of TikTok Today
Things have been pretty quiet since then on the TikTok front… Bigger fish to fry and all that.
Most recently, a federal lawsuit alleged that TikTok broke Illinois law by “harvesting consumer data without consent, including via facial and fingerprint scanning.” This comes after a February 2020 lawsuit against Facebook, which saw the company settling for $550 million under the same accusations. Illinois is the only state with laws on the books allowing individuals to file lawsuits seeking monetary compensation for biometric data collection. Texas and Washington have similar laws but only allow for enforcement through the attorney general.
TikTok settled for $92 million, stating in an email, “While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community.”
For now, we are welcome to continue falling into the deep chasm of infinitely shareable, addictively scrollable videos that make us laugh, learn, and cringe. So, curl up on the couch, pop in your AirPods, and enjoy. You earned it.